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American socialists need to explain how they would prevent the U.S. from becoming another Venezula

American socialists need to explain how they would prevent the U.S. from becoming another Venezula
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appear at a campaign rally in Wichita for Kansas congressional candidate James Thompson, left, on July 20. (Jaime Green / Associated Press)

To the editor: Harold Meyerson seems almost gleeful that “socialism is back” thanks to the 2008 crash and the economic insecurity of millennials.

Not accidentally, the socialist tradition Meyerson invokes is conveniently dissociated from the international Marxist tradition to which socialism is indebted. If President Trump is constantly subject to speculation of ties to an international “alt-right” movement bordering on fascism, then surely we owe the Democratic Socialists of America, another heretofore outlier in American politics, a broader look.

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How can we guarantee that a democratic socialist takeover of the Democratic Party will not descend into the same chaos we see currently in “socialist” countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua? How can we be sure that the rhetoric of class antagonism will not devolve into outright class hatred? Or that “Medicare For All” won’t result, as it has in Venezuela, in hospitals that can’t even provide bedsheets? How can we be so sure that the saturnine display of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist rebel, turning his government’s guns on leftist democracy advocates will not be the fate of an America that bites off more utopian socialism than it can chew?

If Trump must account for the “alt-right,” the Democratic Socialists of America must be taken to task for why they are not, and how they plan to avoid becoming, part of the capitalism-eschewing alt-left that still immiserates people around the world.

Kurt Hofer, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Meyerson provides promising evidence of socialists gaining influence in the Democratic Party, which for many of us progressives is good news. But what does “socialism” mean in today’s global economy when modified by “democratic”?

Meyerson’s otherwise well-argued piece overdraws the contrast between socialism and capitalism. “Socialism is back” not because capitalism has failed, but because today’s capitalism represents unfettered corporate consolidation, or what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called a hostile takeover by America’s billionaires.

The new left should articulate a democratic socialism that builds a healthy market economy to guarantee basic human rights and expands the middle class. We need campaign finance reform, single-payer healthcare, a progressive income tax and accountability for corporations that pollute the environment. The list goes on.

Without free, quality education and healthcare, you might as well scrap the word “equality” from the American lexicon.


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Right now, two things are clear: First, the “Republican lite” version of the Democratic Party will never prevail because the Republicans have more dark money and ideological fervor; and second, the new left is not about socialism versus capitalism, but a system that embraces the efficiency and not the tyranny of the market.

Andrew Apter, Santa Monica

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To the editor: We hear the word “socialism” thrown around, but what does it mean? I feel it means something different for everyone.

The right uses it in a McCarthyist way. Some religious groups say Jesus was a socialist. The center says that a little socialism in the U.S. cannot be bad. The left has to defend the word going back to its etymology and pushes for free quality education and healthcare.

Free education and healthcare are equality, because how can we be equal if we cannot afford an education or make ourselves healthy?

The American Constitution misses the most basic elements that constitute equality in a nation. And it has been kept this way by a political group dedicated to preserving its own supremacy and that of its wealthy sons and daughters.

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Without free, quality education and healthcare, you might as well scrap the word “equality” from the American lexicon, and that is whether you own a gun or not.

Michele Castagnetti, Los Angeles

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